Super Rugby Aupiki: Defending champions Chiefs Manawa aim to dazzle attending fans for first time

Super Rugby Aupiki gets underway on Saturday and, for the first time, fans will be able to join in on the action.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the inaugural season, meaning playoffs were scrapped, supporters banned, and all teams forced to relocate to a Taupō-based bubble, with all of the matches squeezed into a tight schedule at Waikato's FMG Stadium.

But with restrictions lifted, and off the back of the Black Ferns' World Cup-winning feat last year, 2023 is shaping up to be a new start for Super Rugby Aupiki's. 

Chiefs Manawa recruit Chelsea Bremner can't wait to play in front of fans, as Super Rugby Aupiki prepares to touch down across the North Island.

"We're super excited," Bremner told Newshub. "This is our first year we're able to have crowds at our home games for Aupuki.

"Last year, being in the bubble at Taupō, we're super excited to be coming to different communities and different towns all around Aotearoa.

"We really hope that we can get some amazing support from everyone around the country.

"This is the first time we're going to have crowds and building off the back of the World Cup, we had the most incredible support that we could have asked for.

"We really hope that everyone continues to support the women's game and see the amazing talent that we have in our game."

The Chiefs Manawa are the defending Super Rugby Aupiki champions, following an unbeaten season in 2022.

But while they - along with the other teams - will be without their Black Ferns Sevens stars, Bremner is promising an exciting brand of rugby.

"We've got some incredible talent and we just see it as an opportunity to show off what we go, and we've got experienced players and really new, exciting players," she said.

"They're going to stamp their mark, and can't wait to see them show what they got tomorrow.

"We've just been talking about focusing on each game, each week and obviously with the nature of the competition, it all comes down to the semi and the final.

"We're using the round games to put our best foot out there, and work on our combinations.

"We really want to be bold, brave and beautiful, those are three of the words that [Crystal Kaua] has said she wants to see from us.

"The coaches are putting their trust in us to play what comes naturally to us and we've had awesome coaching and we've got all the systems in place for that."

The Chiefs Manawa kick off their Super Rugby Aupiki campaign against the Hurricanes Poua at Levin on Saturday, while the Matatū host the Blues Women at Dunedin.